Earlier this week Santa Fe Reporter
editor Alexa Schirtzinger was awarded the prestigious Knight Journalism Fellowship
and will spend 10 months exploring and identifying sustainable funding solutions for local and regional news media, including alt-weeklies.
"I've been thinking for a long time that I want to save journalism," said Schirtzinger.
During her time at the Santa Fe Reporter
— from which she will step down to accept the fellowship — Schirtzinger started exploring alternative methods for funding her publication, and over time this clarified the need to establish a model for making journalism more sustainable in this ever changing media landscape.
"I felt like I was always going to be up against this wall. There is just a limited amount of money that we have to do things we want to do," said Schirtzinger. "It's this constant sort of limitation with the funding of journalism."
Yet despite the limitations she noticed a silver lining in the business model of alt-weeklies that she knows can benefit other local or regional publications.
"We are not just a newspaper. We never really have been. We've always been a cultural entity in our communities," said Schirtzinger. "We are kind of a community organization that is also a media organization."
According to Schirtzinger, community engagement and taking the publication beyond the page or the web will be key to stabilizing and growing this vital news source, but therein lies the problem. All communities are different. They all have different needs and different voices, so each will have to develop their own solution that expresses their voice.
"I think one of the flaws in ways news organizations are looking now for future revenue sources is that we are hoping for a silver bullet because of course that would be nice, but I don't think that one exists," said Schirtzinger.
Her goal is "creating a cohesive way to both make money and provide journalism," and she suspects that will incorporate an increased level of community engagement and new marketing strategies.
As Schirtzinger says, "we can be the beating heart of our cities."
To be included in Alexa Schirtzinger's research project, which will focus heavily on alt-weeklies, contact her at editor[at]sfreporter[dot]com
Note: A previous version of this post stated that Schirtzinger "will spend the next 10 months" working on her fellowship. Her fellowship begins in September.